Eccentric Flower:201107/Catch Basin

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Catch Basin

A friend asked me, "So, is this one of the times when you're trying to punish everybody else for not doing what we want you to do? 'Well, you don't give me the attention I need, so I'm not going to do anything but give you cat pictures?'"

[This is the kind of reaction I get. Another example: I took some mild mocking from Patrick the last time I saw him in person where he (speaking in character as me) said something like, "Oh, I've moved everything yet again and left no trail and now I'm upset because no one reads anything I post!" We were with others and I was trying to be good and not piss on the joy of the day, so I did not snarl about how I had left plenty of indicators, plenty of warnings, plenty of roadmap, and tried to explain the move, oh, seven or eight times and nobody seemed to get it - either that or they just weren't bothering to pay attention.

With friends like these, who needs enemas?]

Anyway, going back to the other friend kicking me in the face: Once I had waited long enough to stifle the impulse to write back, "No, that's not true, and I'm so offended by your conclusions that I don't think I ever want to talk to you again," I gave a real answer.




A few years ago - everything is "a few years ago" now, so I don't have to think about how long ago some of the things actually were - when Karen Meisner stopped writing in her non-LJ journal space for the first time, she posted a note about how (I paraphrase, because it's long gone) she'd come to realize that the space she was in, the things she needed to talk about, were not useful to her or to others to post publicly, and anyway people mostly seemed to come for "the funny bits with Pär in them", so that was the part she was still leaving up.

I'm sorry I never got a chance to know Karen better, although I suspect it never would have happened anyway, because we have enough mutual similarities to really annoy each other in some fairly nasty ways. Karen's approach was a sound one, and I'm not just now figuring this out in 2011. I figured it out long ago. The problem is, I didn't have any funny bits with Pär in them (or equivalent). If I tried to rip out my journal just to the good bits, there wouldn't be anything left. I haven't had good bits in my journal for more than a decade.

Truth be told, that's why my archives are in such a lousy state; I started cleaning them, was consumed by sadness for a time when I actually wrote about interesting things now and then and the realization that I had forgotten how to get back to there. And my archaeology stopped abruptly.

So the point is, in May I decided on a take-no-prisoners policy of "say something good or don't say it at all." And the stuff in my Tumblr - the shiny objects and interesting articles and divers linkage (I've actually only posted a cat picture once, I think) is the only good stuff I've got. I realize that if you were looking for rants or something deeper, it leaves you unsatisfied. I realize that the Tumblr/Disqus setup is not very conducive to discussion. I realize it shows you very little of the actual me and what's going on in my life. But you're not listening nearly hard enough when I tell you: Take what you can get. That is all I am prepared to offer at this time. It may be all I am prepared to offer for the rest of my life.

There is nothing else besides those fluffy bits that I want anyone else in the world to see; there is nothing else besides those fluffy bits I even want me to see. I don't have the time, energy, or inclination to be introspective anymore or rant anymore. I don't want to think about the inside of my head, and I have no particular good reason to, seeing as how I tend to be a lot happier when I don't.




Some time back, I began using an iPad which travels with me every day. I had a very specific set of needs and considerations which led to the adoption of that device (I'd write the whole matter up, but it falls under Topics Which Are Insufficiently of Interest To Waste Time Writing - see below), and it has been a great success.

Among other consequences of this success, and the reason I mention it at all, is that the two times since the adoption of that device when I have had one of my serious mental-loop meltdowns, I've been able to write a couple of paragraphs of raw notes about what's going on in my head on the iPad, right then and there, even in the middle of the night - and thus, by doing so, flush the topic without having to write at length about it here and make everyone's life, including mine, a little worse off by doing so. I am able to keep the spiralling despair to myself; I am able to placate it just enough to make it go away again.

So that's sorted, as they say. Now I'm dealing with the more difficult battle, which is suppressing all the topics my brain wants to talk about at length but which would be a Waste of Time to write down. That's basically everything, but a part of my brain is really, really stubborn about this. (It came up with an idea for a new novel the other night. Needless to say, I need to write another novel like I need a hole in the head.)

I've come to this space, oh, I don't know, seven or eight times in the month of June. Each time, I managed in the nick of time to not write. I approve of not writing. Every time I don't write something here, it is a triumph of good sense. This entry is a lapse, and the only reason I'm giving in is that I know you all still don't understand and I think it's worth it to make one last attempt to explain it to you.

Work has been extremely psychologically grueling in the last month, and it will continue to be so through the end of August. I could detail the circumstances, tell the tale - but who would I be telling the tale for? Most of you don't care; the few who really do care can be dropped hints on Twitter or elsewhere which will have all you need to know. Tell the whole story for my own sake? I'd have done that once, as a sort of historical record for my own brain. Now I'm no longer sure my brain will ever want to hear about it again.

The list of topics which are Not Worth It gets longer and longer every day. I am hoping one day to arrive at a point where only the shiny objects are left. And though I will have driven some of you away, ideally I will have attracted others. Because I believe I am correct about everyone's tastes, in the main; I believe I'm being accurate when I say that the shiny objects are the only part that most other people actually want to see, the only real value I can contribute.

Even that's a slim hope. I have given up the idea that people will come to see fiction; I've given up the idea that they will come to see essays. I've given up the idea that any long-form writing that doesn't have pretty pictures will ever get an audience. I should never have written the first four pages of the household-electricity article, but apparently I needed yet another reminder. The only long writing on this site (or any of its previous incarnations) which ever got any significant traffic was the Chinese-menu pages, and that's only because it was linked on Metafilter one day. [Other sites have been linked on Metafilter and been brought to their knees by the traffic for days. I got a minor spike in visits for about 24 hours.]

No, I'm pretty sure that if I'm ever going to have any success it will be as an anthologist only, as an aggregator of shiny objects. But even then, it seems like an unlikely road. I can't compete with the people who can literally surf the web 24 hours a day; I do have work to do. I can't compete with the people who have whole crews doing this. The only value I can provide is the filter through the lens of my own tastes, and there the audience is intrinsically limited to people who 1) know my tastes and 2) like them.




I realize I'm pretty nasty about people who are supposed to be my friends. I realize it takes a pretty strong stomach to stand here while I habitually abuse you. The only thing I offer in my defense is that whatever abuse I've given you, it isn't even a shadowy fraction of what I give myself. And yet, despite my abject failure in everything, I still can't seem to get rid of the egotistical part of myself that keeps expecting things it can't have. I can't seem to kill it. It thinks that everyone instantly comes to read its words as soon as they're posted anywhere, that everyone else checks its own pages as often as it does, that everyone else reads Twitter as compulsively as it does. It thinks it deserves fame and acclaim. It can't understand why people don't magically become instant fans. It thinks, in short, that everyone else is as interested in it as it is.

I'm going to purge that egotistical soul from my brain if it's the last thing I do. And I will become a better person for it. And, in theory at least, it should be easy to do: All I have to do is give up everything I ever wanted.

But I've said way too much and I know you aren't really interested in my neuroses. That's not a slight; why should you be? You have your own problems, your own occupations, your own lives to lead. The unreasonable person here is me for expecting that anyone would be interested to begin with.

Bottom line is: I figure the very least I can do - and I mean the very least - is not pollute the world with the inside of my head. I may not be able to contribute anything positive, but by god I can avoid contributing anything negative.

You know where the shiny objects are. See you there.


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Patrick:

Kicking you in the face?

I guess it took you this long to gather the courage to write about me to everyone you know. Thanks for that.

You know, I really tried, but you're hell-bent on finding sycophants who agree to interact with you on the ever-changing level you want them to, and I just can't keep up. And quite honestly, I can't imagine who would.

See you.

-- 19:23, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Columbina:

I'm not interested in sycophants, but it certainly does seem like I don't put the line between abuse and constructive criticism at the same place everyone else does.

No, I didn't put off writing this entry because I was summoning the courage to call you out - and I shouldn't have called you by name, but it's too late to remove that now - but your remarks DID keep me upset for the rest of the day and a couple of days afterward. I mean, I feel like whatever calling-out I just did to you was modest compared to you mocking me in front of two of my other friends, including one I had never met before, and my wife. Maybe I'm just thin-skinned.

Anyway, you shouldn't go off; I'm sure most people who read the entry will agree with the comments you made that day! And after all, the larger point was that you're far from alone in this, nor are you anywhere near the most severe critic.

-- 20:05, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Bunny42:

I don't even understand half the shiny things you post on Tumblr. Clearly, we're worlds apart in tastes and most interests. I always found your rants to be introspective and compelling, even when I completely disagreed with your point of view. I confess to skimming through Tumblr, looking for the few comments which appear from time to time. Looks like I'll have to troll the LJ archives and read stuff there. I didn't even know you'd written a novel.

I guess there's no point in stopping back here occasionally, on the off chance that I'll find a new entry. I miss the salon. But I think this post will finally convince those of us faithful readers who are left that Eccentric Flower is pretty much gone. Adieu.

-- 20:17, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Columbina:

Sorry, Bunny. I really am. I hate to disappoint. But the comments above are a case in point. I open up a glimpse of my head for the first time in over a month, and immediately piss off someone whose friendship is valuable to me ... even if I don't act like it.

It is better for everyone for me to go silent.

-- 20:22, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Jette:

Well, apparently if you are using Chrome and you're not logged in here and you try to comment and are prohibited, you can't go back and capture the comment you spent 15 minutes crafting carefully. Blargh. Firefox always let me go back ...

Anyway. I think you should write what you want where you want, and ignore people who bitch about it or try to guilt you into writing what they want. I went through that when I shifted from personal tell-all writing to writing about movies, and some of the reader emails were downright hurtful. As though they were entitled to part of my life, even. I would not do that to another person.

I like the Tumblr blog -- sometimes I comment, sometimes I skip an entry. It's a nice grab bag. We all have to find the venues for our writing that are most comfortable for us, and it can take a while, and it's good to hear that between Tumblr and the iPad, you're achieving more of what you want.

My original comment got a lot rantier (I took the "sycophant" comment more personally than I should have) but I think I'll just stop here.

-- 20:51, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Bunny42:

Oh, yeah, I forgot about the sycophant thing. I always thought sycophants were obsequious yes-people. That's certainly not the sort you found here. You've even commented from time to time about how it seemed everyone lived to argue with you. Naw, I just passed it off as unnecessarily mean and let it go.

-- 20:57, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Stacey:

You know, I did worry about that moment at our brunch for about five seconds, wondering if you were upset about it. You seemed to brush it off very quickly and I'm sorry to hear you're still thinking about it - I had a lovely time with all of you and am sad to hear that part of the morning was upsetting for you. Honestly, I probably just went right back to envying your earrings, which were cute.

In less personal responses, I think what Jette said pretty much goes for me. Then again I am forever teetering on the brink of starting to journal again, but the older I get and the more complicated my life gets and the less anonymous the internet gets, the less sure I am about what I am willing to share of myself with The Internet At Large. So I can't blame anyone else who wants to withdraw. But, selfishly, I like it when my friends write about their lives even when I'm unwilling to do the same, so I'll likely be around, reading whatever you're writing.

But I reserve the right to not read it the instant you post it, and if that's upsetting, there's not much I can do about it. I spent the afternoon curled up at the library reading graphic novels Jayran recommended, and it was delightful, and I can't be sorry if bits of the internet passed me by that I now have to catch up on!

-- 21:20, 5 July 2011 (BST)


Mrissa:

I think one of my major disconnects with modern internet culture is that I don't find retweeting/linking to be a particularly personal expression. Good on you, those of you who do; I don't. Yes, it says something about you. It says about as much about you as what type and brand of shoes you choose to wear, and I don't choose my friends based on that.

So for me what you're saying is, "Take what you can get [of personal interactions with me]. By the way, 'what you can get' is nothing."

I mean, I occasionally pop over and look at the stream of partially shiny objects. But I also occasionally wander through a little shop in Bigdale that has good trinkets. I don't mistake that for having a relationship with the proprietor, and I sincerely hope that the proprietor does not mistake that for having a relationship with me.

-- 04:31, 6 July 2011 (BST)


Thomas:

In interest of balance I have to add that the way Columbina keeps the Twitter account is on some topics more personal than any of her diaries used to be. Twitter is much more than just overhearing a stranger making personal call on cell phone in public, as it is OK to jump in to say something. And a remark dropped to Columbina on Twitter has much higher possibility of becoming a conversation than sending mail - that is also a positive side.

So - while peskier than long format, Twitter can be more than nothing.

-- 08:18, 6 July 2011 (BST)


Medley:

I think Mrissa gets at the kernel of the issue that I've been thinking about wrt this. And it's a question I have that's not aimed solely at you. I know other people who've chosen to withdraw from most kinds of online interaction as well.

When interesting people are geographically distributed and not using the phone or email, how does relationship development/maintenance work, then? One of them told me: "Well, just email me if you want to chat." But in practice it doesn't really seem to work that way.

And of course you should feel free to foster/maintain relationships or not in whatever ways you see fit and are comfortable with. But it can still feel like a legitimate loss to others.

-- 12:32, 6 July 2011 (BST)


Columbina:

Mrissa, Medley - I think you're both right; I think these are legitimate objections.

In the case of the former, yes, I agree I am not really offering a relationship, and I don't like that much, but I feel I'm in a state at present where that relationship is, um, kinda toxic.

As for the latter, the "how do you maintain/develop a relationship in the absence of phone/email?" question is one I've given a lot of thought to, especially since I find chat clients invasive except by special arrangement, and Twitter (which, as Thomas notes, is about the closest you'll get to personal interaction with me these days short of sitting in a room with me) is not suited to every occasion, nor is it to everyone's taste.

I'd like to say that the answer is "the perfect answer hasn't been invented yet," but secretly I suspect the real answer is increased isolation and inability to form or hold relationships. I've moved increasingly into the "internet is increasing the distance between us" camp in the last couple of years. The counterbalance, of course, would be to go out and see people more often in person. But 1) I have never been very good at face-to-face socializing and 2) it's increasingly hard to find an appropriate venue. I don't have a church, I don't go to gyms, I'm pretty unclubbable, et cetera et cetera. Still working on an answer to that - as, I think, are many of my friends.

-- 14:54, 6 July 2011 (BST)


ProfRobert:

I'm having a hard time understanding what it is you want from your online presence. You seem to be saying that you want eyeballs and that the shiny objects are the best method to achieve that end. I suspect that you are right, if all you want is lots of drive-by looks with little or no feedback (my own feedback seems to be devolving mostly to one-liners -- actual conversational responses from me are now a minority).

But would you really rather be Us magazine instead of The Economist? I had had the impression for years that the *quality* of the eyeballs was important to you, and that the written conversation that ensued gave you the community and interactions that you most enjoyed (next to in-person).

I don't know if I am wrong, was wrong or that I'm right, and you've just changed over time (which obviously you have the right to do).

I do understand your not wanting to write bile-filled essays. There's a difference between a good, fun rant, and one driven by rage. What I miss are the 500-1000-word essays giving your take on Topics of the Day. I'm selfishly sorry if you don't enjoy writing those anymore.

One last thing, this jumped out at me: "[W]hatever abuse I've given you, it isn't even a shadowy fraction of what I give myself." I could have written something similar a decade ago. I think I've said this before, but it bears saying again: Let up on yourself. You deserve it. If you can do it, as I did, you'll find you'll let up on everyone else, too, and you and the world will be a deservedly happier place.

-- 09:40, 8 July 2011 (BST)

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